Sarah Palin fires up conservative grassroots in speech at CPAC

Sarah Palin called for the conservative grassroots to avoid consultants in a fiercely anti-establishment speech that received the strongest response yet from a packed auditorium at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday.

"The next election is 20 months away. Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home and toss the political scripts. Because if we truly know what we believe, we don't need professionals to tell us," Palin said, one of at least a dozen lines that received standing ovations and sustained cheering from the crowd.

Her remarks echoed the prevailing anti-establishment sentiment of the conference, which typically attracts a large Tea Party and libertarian contingent of the Republican Party. Dozens of speakers before Palin also railed against the "consultant class" and urged attendees to take back control of the party.

The conference's focus on the establishment versus grassroots reflects a wider rift in the party overall, following disappointing losses in 2012, when Republicans were largely caught off-guard by faulty polling assumptions and weak candidates in a number of Senate and House races.

A conflict has emerged between establishment Republicans, who hope to have a greater influence over party primaries in 2014 to prevent similarly weak candidates from costing them winnable elections, and the grassroots of the party, who would prefer party elders stay out.

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In her speech, the former vice-presidential nominee weighed in on that conflict, charging that "the last thing we need is Washington, D.C., vetting our candidates."

And in a veiled reference to Karl Rove, one of the main establishment figures in the party debate, Palin suggested the "architect…s [of 2012] should come back to the Lone Star State and put their name on the ballot."

Rove is from Texas, and is known for the nickname "the architect."

Palin pleased the crowd with a number of punchy one-liners that drew laughter and widespread applause.

She criticized President Obama for claiming to want to have the most transparent administration ever, charging "Barack Obama, you lie!" a reference to a House member shouting the same thing at Obama during a 2009 joint address to Congress.

And she lambasted the president for, she said, continuing to campaign instead of govern.

"Now step away from the teleprompter, and do your job!" she said.

At one point, while urging the crowd to encourage their friends and family to pursue politics, scattered audience members shouted "run for office!" Palin is on the CPAC presidential straw poll, and while she has left the door open to a future run, she's not considered a likely 2016 contender.

Palin also brought a prop — a "Big Gulp" soda, a 32-ounce soda that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to ban in New York City, and has become a symbol of government overreach for the conservative movement.

She took a big sip from the soda at one point in the speech, to roars from the crowd, and brandished it like a trophy while walking off the stage at the end.